Thursday Niggles

There are some days now when there seem to be protests at various places all over London. Last Saturday I would have liked to have been photographing in Vauxhall, and meeting different groups of protesters at London Bridge Station and in the City of London all at noon – and there were several other things all happening at exactly the same time. Of course I can only be at one place at a time, so I had to choose.

But for once, last Thursday, things seemed to be arranged so that I could cover four separate events one after another, and go on to a choice of two meetings in the evening, without too much standing around waiting for things. But things didn’t quite work out as I had hoped.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
NUJ Gen Sec Jeremy Dear – and his successor Michelle Stanistreet at right

The first event, a protest at the Libyan embassy – or rather on the other side of a very wide road with an underpass running through its centre opposite the embassy close to Hyde Park corner – was billed to be from 12-2pm. Experience suggested to me that this would probably mean that people were still arriving up until 12.30 and would be drifting away by 1 o’clock, which was fine. I could even get the earliest train that I can use a cheap day return on, the 11.29, and be at Victoria by around noon to get a bus for the short ride to the event. Despite the trains running a little late, it worked fine, and I was there and taking pictures  by 12.20.  It wasn’t the most exciting of events, but it was organised by my union, and both the current and next general secretary were there holding placards, along with a few other members I knew.

One of the three journalists still held by Libyans had been released the previous day, and the placards show two ticks for those who were released. Another was freed the following day, though I suspect it had little to do with our protest.  But as you can see from the pictures in NUJ/Al Jazeera – Release the Journalists on My London Diary it was hard work to produce a great deal, and by around 12.45 I had lost any desire to keep taking pictures.

Of course I could have held up a placard myself, but I was feeling rather hungry, and decided for some reason a kebab or something similar would be great. Unfortunately, neither Knightsbridge where I was, or my next stop in Kensington are the right places to find this, and I arrived at Young Street where the next protest was supposed to be happening still hungry.

Not only no kebab, but there was no demonstration.  But I wandered around the area for a bit and was then greeted by another photographer on the corner of Derry St, and looking down there could see some police and barriers and a small group of people, among whom I recognised a few who would be in the protest.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

By 2.10pm the protesters had put up a few banners and I started taking pictures again, and visually – as you can see at Claimants to Daily Mail: “Stop the lies!” things were rather more interesting. The people were more varied and there were banners and a number of placards to make use of.  Behind the protesters was a fashion shop, GAP, with giant-size photographs of fashion models which rather contrasted with the protesters. I did vaguely wonder about possible copyright problems with both these pictures and the GAP logo, but decided that since ‘incidental inclusion’ was inevitable in the situation I might as well make the most of it!

By around 2.50pm the protest seemed to have peaked and begun to loose its momentum; many of those present had already spoken , some a couple of times, and I decided it was time to leave in search of food in more promising areas.  (Unlike many other photographers  I generally boycott places like MacDonalds or Starbucks,  which they often find the only places around from which they can file their work – but I always wait until I get home and spend hours sorting the pictures out and writing stories.)

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The bus from Kensington to Victoria must be one of the slowest journeys on earth; certainly if I wasn’t still suffering slightly from a bad foot it would have been much quicker to walk. The main hold-up is at the junction with Brompton Road, where traffic coming along Knightsbridge from the west gets a ridiculously short and badly sequenced chance to proceed, with preference being given to traffic from the Brompton Road. I think the bus waited for almost ten full sequences of the lights before it was able to get across.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Dancing on Gaddafi – and a well-placed foot

I wasn’t worried, as I had been told that the next protest, opposite Downing St, would be from 4-5 pm, and so I had plenty of time. So I arrived, having picked up a snack at Victoria while walking from one bus stop to the next and eating it on the bus, at around 3.50pm to find everyone getting ready to leave at 4 pm, having started their protest at 3 pm. I did have a few minutes to take pictures, but not enough to do justice to the event, which would otherwise have been interesting – and in the end decided I didn’t have enough to file a story later on Demotix. You can however see it on My London Diary at Libyans Keep Up Their Protests.

They were walking to join other protesters at the Libyan embassy, so along with another photographer I decided to go there. Rather than walk with the women and children from the protest (that foot again!)  we went by bus, and got there rather faster, only to find just a handful of people opposite the embassy – and really nothing to photograph. I stood and talked with some of the people there for around 15 minutes, then decided I would need to leave if I wanted to get to the next event on time.  As my bus went around the large roundabout of Hyde Park Corner, I saw the women and children finally arriving.  It would have been something that I could have photographed, but not from the bus.

It was just a little galling that when I reached Westminster City Hall at the advertised time for the protest there, there were quite a few photographers standing round and talking but nothing much else going on.  It was really only around 25 minutes later that there was anything at all to take pictures of, so I could have waited at the embassy and got more pictures.  And although the protest there was supposed to end by 7 pm, later we were told that one of the larger groups who would be coming to hand out hot food, didn’t expect to arrive until 8 pm.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Providing food free on the streets will get you a £500 fine in Westminster

By the time I had taken some pictures, it was too late to get to the photographers meeting I would have liked to attend, which started at 6 pm. Apart from seeing some good pictures and meeting old and new friends, there are usually brownies to die for and a free drink for those who arrive early, and afterwards free food at a nearby pub funded by a raffle – and the raffle prizes are generally prints provided by the photographers showing work – often very desirable, and I’ve won a couple in the past. So I was unhappy to have missed this.

Instead I went to a meeting of another group that I’ve usually enjoyed,  which takes place in different venues around town. Thursday it was in the downstairs area of a slightly trendy bar, with a poor choice of overpriced beer, and it was very noisy and crowded. Few of the people I know from the group were there, but I was happy to find a place to sit and relax after a busy day. There were two speakers promised for later in the evening, but I found the first so bad that I left after he had spent what seemed like an hour saying what he could have said in two minutes.  It hadn’t been a bad day, but a busy and at times frustrating one, and I still had work to do, sorting out pictures and sending off one of the stories before I went to bed (and a second the following morning.)

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